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Plot: high-class escort Sarah Asproon moonlights as a novelist researching a new book

Let it be known that Joe D’Amato can never be accused of not completely milking an idea while it was still profitable. A year after Eleven Days, Eleven Nights (1987) old Joe returned to New Orleans for Top Model (1988), a sequel of sorts to his earlier Nine 1/2 Weeks (1986) knockoff. Back again is ravishing Luciana Ottaviani and in what would be her swansong in the franchise she's given every chance to show off that impressive body of hers. With a screenplay from Rossella Drudi and Sheila Goldberg (as Gloria Miles) Top Model does have an unexpected romantic undercurrent. Which still doesn’t make it anything more than a bog-standard inexpensive soft erotic potboiler for late night cable. At least a Joe D’Amato soft erotic feature isn’t as heinous and painful as some of his infamous horror movies.

The success of a soft erotic movie is relative to the willingness of its star to shed clothes and cavort around naked. Ottaviani, to her everlasting credit, doesn’t shy away from either – even though she’s hardly what you'd call an actress. Ottaviani is exactly what Laura Gemser was in the 1970s. Gemser, three years away from announcing her retirement in 1991, will not be shedding any garments but she still looks rather dashing at 38. The cast is nothing but unknowns. James Sutterfield and Lin Gathright were in Killing Birds (1987), one of the many unofficial sequels to Lucio Fulci’s often imitated Zombie (1979). Gathright would resurface in the series American Horror Story (2014). Jason Saucier had guest roles in Dawson’s Creek (1999) and One Tree Hill (2004). Top Model was Laura Gemser’s first venture as a costume designer and unfortunately she never transcended beyond D’Amato and his ilk. There's something inherently ironic about Gemser, famous for getting out of her clothes for a living, making sure that other actors stay in theirs.

After having engaged in a brief but steamy affair with a dopey construction engineer the year before alleged novelist and present high-end escort Sarah Asproon (Luciana Ottaviani, as Jessica Moore) is working on a new book about high-class prostitution. To legitimize her efforts Asproon and her publisher Dorothy Tipton (Laura Gemser) set up a call-girl agency. Tipton adopts the alias Eva North while Asproon calls herself Gloria. To maximize efficiency and to keep track of customer information and appointments receptionist Sharon (Lin Gathright) and shy programmer Cliff Evans (James Sutterfield) are hired. One of Sarah’s clients Peter McLaris (Ale Dugas) threatens to expose Asproon to the police, which would ruin her career as a novelist. Despite the threats Sarah continues to work and finds herself falling in love with Evans, who initially remains reserved towards her advances. Jason (Jason Saucier), Cliff’s apparently homosexual friend, competes for Sarah’s affection after she properly rode him. Spurring Jason’s advances and foiling McLaris’ blackmailing Sarah and Cliff choose each other. Asproon bids her life of prostitution farewell and focuses on her new career as a novelist. The two move to another city to start anew.

The dreary, humid New Orleans locales ooze with all the depravity and sleaze you’d expect of a Joe D’Amato movie. The men that circle Asproon come from both ends of the spectrum. Cliff and James are regular guys confused why a sensual vixen like Sarah would take an active interest in them, let alone a sexual one. Peter the blackmailing toy factory owner is a sleazebag of the highest order that it makes you wonder why he wasn’t played by Gabrielle Tinti or David Hess. Asproon’s clients are the usual variety of reptilian abusers, including an exploitative photographer, a profusely sweating toned African-American that should have been Fred Williamson, and the client that books Sarah for himself and requests that her friend Eva North rides him like a bull. An entire subplot is dedicated to the sexual dynamic between Cliff and James, who are obviously attracted to each other, sensual Sarah cures both men of their confusion by mounting and riding them, seperately. In fact Sarah rides James to such an extent that he becomes straight. Cliff, feeling merely sexually inadequate in Sarah’s presence, is mounted creatively into self-confidence.

It’s hard to believe that Top Model was helmed by the director that gave the world Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals (1977), the gothic horror-slasher hybrid Buio Omega (1979), and the splatter classic Anthropophagus (1980). There's an inherent sweetness to the entire thing that you'd earlier find in Bitto Albertini's erotic potboilers. Luciana Ottaviani wasn’t much of an actress, and she was cast in movies mostly to take her clothes off, but she never deserved to dwell in the muck that she did. Ottaviani had a body similar to Serena Grandi, Donatella Damiani, and Debora Caprioglio, and it’s nothing short of puzzling that she never appeared in a Tinto Brass production. Ottaviani had junk in the trunk and Brass loves a baby that got back as much as Sir Mix-A-Lot. That she somehow never entered the sphere of Jess Franco is a miracle in itself. It stands to reason that luscious Luciana was tainted by her exploitation beginnings, and she would never ascend to the A-list erotica of, say, Bernardo Bertolucci. Not that she would be able to carry such a movie by herself, mind. Top Model is curiously low on dialogue for a reason and that the plot is moved forward by every other character that isn’t Sarah Asproon should clue anybody in exactly how much of an actress Ottaviani really was.

After Top Model Ottaviani moved on from the franchise and D’Amato continued with new lead Kristine Rose, who prior to acting appeared in Playboy (August 1991, February and April 1993 – never making it to the cover). Rose starred in a further third sequel confusingly titled Eleven Days, Eleven Nights 2 (1990). Like in much of his 1980s output Laura Gemser has only a supporting role, and unlike in The Alcove (1985) she refrains from shedding fabric. A year later Moore would be starring opposite of Pamela Prati, Loredana Romito, Laura Gemser, and Gabrielle Tinti in the erotic potboiler Reflections Of Light (1988). That one did give her a chance to act. After her tenure with D’Amato Rose made appearances in the actioner Total Exposure (1991), the Charles Band production Demonic Toys (1992) and the Zach Galligan-Corey Feldman comedy Roundtrip to Heaven (1992). Rose has filmography so depressing that she played second fiddle to latter-day Andy Sidaris regulars Julie Strain, and Teri Weigel. Not exactly something to be very proud of, or at all.

That Joe D’Amato’s voluminous softcore output is far more enjoyable (and often technically superior) to the many and maddeningly wild exploitation – and horror movies that made him famous was a foregone conclusion. What is also evident is that D’Amato’s direction is technically solid, workmanlike, and indifferently professional, even when Ottaviani is naked and in the frame. D'Amato doesn't exude any kind of the artistry, individuality, or thematic follow-through that made Tinto Brass such a revered household name. Luciana Ottaviani is given enough flattering angles whenever possible and D'Amato will let his camera glide across her curvaceous canvas every chance he gets, but isn’t nearly enough to make Top Model anything more than a bog-standard erotic potboiler marginally better than late night skinflicks headlined by the likes of Shannon Tweed, Julie Strain, Lisa Boyle, Sherilyn Fenn, or Tanya Roberts. Joe D'Amato was infamous for a reason, yet Top Model isn’t nearly as grime and sleazy as you’d expect. In fact it's stoically demure and unrepentantly utilitarian. Everything works and everything is where it should be, yet if this was meant to be Luciana's star-making vehicle, it missed the mark.

As part of his prolific 1980s period, a decade wherein D’Amato concentrated almost exclusively on soft- and hardcore pornography, Top Model is an unassuming and ultimately forgettable exercise in softcore tedium were it not for the illuminating and arousing presence of Luciana Ottaviani, the embodiment of curly 1980s sassiness. The score consists of pulsating electronic music from Piero Montanari, René de Versailles, and Jacob Wheeler. This should have been the Black Emanuelle series for the eighties. Ottaviani's premature departure deflated the franchise before it could begin, and that was very unfortunate indeed. Eleven Days, Eleven Nights never recovered from the exit of its original and biggest star, and the numerous in-name-only sequels only made that more obvious.

Plot: novelist Sarah Asproon moonlights as a high-class escort researching a new book

Ten years after after Eva Nera (1977) Italian exploitation guru Aristide Massaccesi (under his English nom de plume Joe D'Amato) started a new soft erotica franchise with a bright young star in the form of Eleven Days, Eleven Nights. Bankrolled to capitalize on the success of Nine 1/2 Weeks (1986) and on the willingness of actress Luciana Ottaviani (under her Anglicized alias Jessica Moore) to shed fabric it sees the symbolic passing of the torch from D’Amato’s beloved softcore star of the previous decade Laura Gemser to Moore. While not her screen debut with D’Amato Eleven Days, Eleven Nights was the franchise she is most identified with. In 1988 a pseudo-sequel followed in the wake of the original’s box office success with Top Model (1988) (alternatively released in some territories as Eleven Days, Eleven Nights: the Sequel for maximum confusion). In 1990 followed an official sequel with Eleven Days, Eleven Nights 2 with Kristine Rose taking over as lead.

Front and center is Luciana Ottaviani, who was a dancer, glamour model, and showgirl before turning to acting. At age 19 Ottaviani was offered a role in Convent Of Sinners (1986), a production where she initially was contracted to work as an assistant. The production proved lucrative and Ottaviani was given her own vehicle with Eleven Days, Eleven Nights. Working the trenches almost exclusively with Joe D’Amato, and Mario Bianchi, Ottaviani starred in a dozen of movies in the three-year period from 1986 to 1989. During the death throes and eventual collapse of the Italian horror industry she worked with Lucio Fulci on Sodoma’s Ghost (1988) and the Fulci produced giallo Blood Moon (1989). Taking a cue from the greatest exploitation muses, Luciana Ottaviani never appeared under her own name. Early on Ottaviani used the Gilda Germano alias before rechristening herself to the more American sounding Jessica Moore once given her own production. Luciana Ottaviani’s English alias in turn has led to some understandable confusion as she shares it with an Hungarian adult actress, and an Australian tennisplayer. In 1989 Ottaviani moved out of the cinema industry as family life took precedence.

Aristide Massaccesi was a cinematographer by trade, and the typical workhorse exploitation director that dabbled in every genre in need of exploiting. It wasn’t until 1979 that he adopted the Joe D’Amato alias under which he directed a swath of soft erotic features with Laura Gemser. Gemser was the star of Bitto Albertini’s Black Emanuelle (1975), but it was D’Amato who made the franchise profitable. All through the 1980s and 90s D’Amato directed over 100 erotic features, both of the soft- and hardcore variety, for the Italian video market. During the decade he directed everything from the Greek horror feature Anthropophagus (1980), the Conan the Barbarian (1982) knockoff Ator the Invincible (1982) and its sequel Ator, the Blade Master (1984) with Miles O’Keeffe to the post-apocalyptic actioner Endgame (1983). From the looks of it D’Amato’s 1980s softcore features apparently came as a response to the success of Italian master of erotica Tinto Brass. Where Brass is a craftsman and technician with an obsession with richly formed posteriors, smut peddlers Massaccesi, and Jesús Franco, were far less dignified and ogled any and every starlet willing to get naked for them. Moore is easy on the eyes and it's easy to see why D'Amato insisted on getting her her own franchise. Moore might not be much of an actress, but she certainly looks absolutely amazing au naturel.

In New Orleans Sarah Asproon (Luciana Ottaviani, as Jessica Moore) is an enterprising young writer who moonlights as a high-class escort to collect material for her new book. Asproon is a bisexual, nymphomaniacal, nude top model/exotic dancer moonlighting as a journalist, or the other way around. It’s the sort of character that could’ve only sprung from the diseased mind of old Joe. On board of a ferry Asproon flashes dopey young construction designer Michael Terenzi (Joshua McDonald) who can’t resist the comely charms of the alluring vamp, and their initial meeting is the start of a brief albeit passionate affair. Terenzi is scheduled to be married to the demure Helen (Mary Sellers). In the following Eleven Days, Eleven Nights Terenzi engages in a steaming affair with sizzling Sarah, who initiates him to exciting sexual pleasures. Mentoring Asproon is publicist Dorothy Tipton (Laura Gemser). It’s a symbolic passing of the torch from one D’Amato softcore starlet to the next. Helen, naturally, starts to feel neglected, and some friction develops when Asproon is forced to reveal that she is merely using Terenzi as a way of completing her new novel “My 100 Men”, a scathing exposé chronicling her sexual conquests. Hearts break, tears roll, and Sarah Asproon returns to her life of prostitution.

Eleven Days, Eleven Nights was written by the husband-and-wife team of Claudio Fragasso and Rossella Drudi which, if this was a horror production, should have anyone sane running for cover. The movie claims to be based upon a novel by one Sarah Asproon, but the name is merely one of many aliases used by Rossella Drudi to give the production a veneer of respectability. It wasn’t the first time D’Amato used such tactic as The Alcove (1985) made similar bogus claims as to its source material. Surprising of both D’Amato and the rightly reviled Drudi-Fragasso axis Eleven Days, Eleven Nights is at times very romantic and there’s a genuine sweet undercurrent to its playful softcore shenanigans. Top Model, its pseudo-sequel, would play up the romantic angle to an even greater degree. In both movies there’s more than enough Luciana Ottaviani in the buff to satisfy anybody’s cravings.

As the Italian exploitation industry started to decline in the 1980s and eventually withered towards the end of the decade D’Amato worked as a director of soft- and hardcore erotica. It’s telling that D’Amato’s repertoire of softcore erotica is frequently and consistently better produced with more attention to shot composition than his horror movies of the period tend to be. Replacing much of the bleakness and nihilism that pervaded his movies with Laura Gemser, Black Emanuelle and otherwise, Eleven Days, Eleven Nights is the Eva Nera (1977) of the eighties. Providing two electro pop songs to the soundtrack is domestic Eurobeat mainstay Leonie Gane. Her two contributions border on the annoying with its cauterwauling vocalizations and sub-Marcello Giombini beat. The majority of the score was composed by Piero Montanari, a well-regarded Italian bassist and musician that contributed to recordings from many artists including Don Backy.

It never sinks to the backwardness of D’Amato’s own period potboiler The Alcove (1985) although that one did have the late Lilli Carati and it never bothers itself with the human drama that comprised much of Mario Bianchi’s Reflections Of Light (1988). Joe D’Amato might not have been a good director, but he at least knew how to put a scene together. Likewise is Luciana Ottaviani's inability to act countered by her looking rather splendid in lingerie (or less). There isn’t much in the way of a plot worth remembering, and whenever Moore takes her clothes off she’s shot with the kind of attention to detail you wish old Joe used in his other more remembered and memorable movies, but somehow never did. It’s a late-night erotic TV movie helmed by a director famous for his horror and gore oeuvre. It’s nothing more than 90 minutes of the camera ogling over the finer points of Luciana Ottaviani’s anatomy. It’s perfunctory in exactly the ways movies like this ought to be. It’s soft erotic trash with a veneer of minimal story. Eleven Days, Eleven Nights makes no qualms about what it is, and that honesty is refreshing to say the least.